Food fight: Justine Drake

Justine Drake wonders at Westerners who eat fois gras, prawns and added vitamins, but not poodle, cockroaches or fresh produce.

From the Series

Justine Drake “gets paid to eat and drink, how bad can it be?” She is a South African chef, restaurant consultant, the editor of Fresh Living and the author of five cookbooks.

Why do we eat shrimps but not insects?

Culture entirely defines culinary standards and norms. Eating cows in the West is de rigueur but it would never be considered in India. Dogs and insects are commonplace in Asia while most of the West would be horrified at the prospect. Why do so many see it as heinous and horrid to kill and eat a bunny rabbit yet parts of a dear little lamb find their way onto our plates weekly, and we don’t give it a moment's thought? Jonathan Safran Foer ponders these questions in his book Eating Animals (Penguin). He suggests that dogs, if we let them breed without interference, would provide us with a sustainable, environmentally-friendly local meat supply. But could we consider sitting down to a plate of poached poodle with a side order of deep fried cockroach? No, for us genteel Westerners it will have to be a seared fois gras topped with a few pan-fried prawns – much less barbaric!

Why do we think we need added vitamins?

Because more and more we probably do. Ten years ago a healthy diet would have undoubtedly provided you with enough of your vitamin RDA to keep you in the peak of health. Nowadays the vast quantities of industrialised food – peeled, grated, fried at inferno temperatures, enhanced with preservatives – has had its lifeblood of goodness wrenched out of it. But boy are they convenient? “Look these chickens are so much bigger and more tender”; and “Oh, I only shop at xxx, their vegetables last much longer.” Has it ever occurred to you that vegetables aren’t supposed to have a fridge life of three weeks? And chicken is not supposed to be tumbled and pummelled, injected with brine and lord only knows what else? So by the time everything has been altered to suit our need for convenience and price, the chances are that the majority of vitamins have been lost too. What you think you saved on groceries you’re now going to have to spend on vitamins. Ain’t life a bitch?